This page gives an overview of the two most common forms of treatment offered though the NHS: talking treatments and psychiatric medication. It also explains some available alternatives, such as arts and creative therapies and complementary and alternative therapies, and explains where you can find out more.
The NICE guidelines
Any treatment your doctor offers you will ideally follow what the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends for your condition. NICE is the organisation that produces official clinical guidelines on best practice in healthcare. These guidelines are based on published evidence, expert contributions and real life experiences. They are officially for use in England, but may be used in Wales and other parts of the UK too.
However, although healthcare professionals are all encouraged to follow the NICE guidelines, unfortunately access to recommended treatments still varies enormously across the NHS.
For information on accessing treatment, see our pages on seeking help for a mental health problem.
I didn't realise I was experiencing issues for a long time, and then put off seeing someone about it – just knowing you are actually finally getting help is such a relief.
Talking treatments provide a regular time and space for you to talk about your thoughts and experiences and explore difficult feelings with a trained professional. This could help you to:
- deal with a specific problem
- cope with upsetting memories or experiences
- improve your relationships
- develop more helpful ways of living day-to-day.
You may hear various terms used to describe talking treatments, including counselling, psychotherapy, therapy, talking therapy or psychological therapy. These terms are all used to describe the same general style of treatment.
There are lots of different kinds of therapy available in the UK and it’s important to find a style and a therapist that you feel comfortable with.
(See our pages on talking treatments for more information, including how to access them.)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
If you’re referred for therapy through the NHS, you're likely to be offered a type of talking treatment called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a relatively short-term treatment which aims to identify connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and to help you develop practical skills to manage any negative patterns that may be causing you difficulties.
Evidence suggests that CBT can be an effective treatment for a range of mental health problems. However, although many people can benefit from CBT, not everyone finds it helpful. You might find that it just doesn't suit you, or doesn't meet your needs.
(See our pages on CBT for more information.)
Talking things through with a counsellor or therapist really helps me to see things more rationally and make connections between reality and inside my head.
The most common type of treatment available is psychiatric medication. These drugs don’t cure mental health problems, but they can ease many symptoms. Which type of drug you are offered will depend on your diagnosis. For example: